I had 10 days or so dog sitting in beautiful Coatepec. My accommodations where much nicer then I have been used to, to say the least! I ended up staying most of the time in the owners big beautiful house that she just built a couple years ago. She had an amazing book
collection so I spent a lot of time reading. One day I went to a neighboring town called Tico and hiked to a waterfall. It rained a lot during my stay there, but it was peaceful and beautiful and I had the seriously dorky Cocker Spaniel Brandy the to keep me company.
Next I headed to Veracruz the city. It is on the eastern coast of Mexico. Veracruz was kind of dirty and grimmie, but also one of the best places I think I've been to yet because it was soo alive with music. It was a Sunday night and the whole city was like a musical. There was dancing and music everywhere! There would be one theatrical scene somewhere, then I would walk away from that and 10 more feet down the road another one. There was also such a diversity of types of music. There were older people dancing to an orchestra, there were teens dancing to hip hop, of course all ages dancing salsa, there were traditional dancers and drum lines, hula-hoop dancers etc. etc. There were also no international tourists. I don't know why, maybe they haven't discovered it yet, only tourists that were other
Mexicans. This was refreshing because it felt very unspoiled since everything wasn't catered to foreigners like some places that I've been to are. With the down side being there aren't any hostels, so I had to stay alone in a very crappy hotel. Anyway I loved Veracuz and am determined to go back there when I get a chance.
The next couple days I spent in Boca de Rio ("Mouth of the River" because it is where the river joins the sea), which is kind of a suburb of Veracruz, because one of my aunts and cousins from Mexico City decided to have a little vacation there. So I got to relax and hang out with them for a couple of days, but then was forced to hurry on my way because my Mexican visa was about to expire and I needed to get into Guatemala.
. . . So begun my a crazy 24 hour journey! I left Veracruz city on an over night bus
that took me to a border town in Mexico. Form there I took another bus that
took me (and luckily guided me through the process) across the border. That bus dropped me off on the side of a highway in the middle of some small town in Guatemala! And as you can imagine I make quite the scene with my big backpack and looking all foreign-y and everything, so naturally everyone is staring at me. So I had no idea where I was, but knew which town I wanted to end up in, so I just kept asking how to get there and people would direct me which bus to take. From there I got on my first ¨chicken bus¨
***A little about the chicken buses in central America, now that I've been on quite a few I can try and give you a feel for what they are like. They are old school buses from the US that have been stripped and repainted will all sorts of new colors! These buses offer cheap transportation down the road or across the country. Now as most of you have seen, the seats in school buses are made for about two adults. But here in Guatemala we put three people in each seat, which means that the third person is half on the seat and half in the aisle, so that all the aisles are full too, plus there is other people standing. The passengers also often have to bring along things...luggage, giant tortilla baskets, stacks of egg cartons, babies, mannequins (yes I did see this) and of course live chickens (hence the nickname chicken buses). Now to mount the buses; usually you have to make a run for it, the bus many times doesn't actually stop, there is a guy that will grab any stuff that you are carrying and throw it on, then you have to run next to that bus and jump on. I was not quite used to this so usually there is some guy yelling ¨rapido mama!¨ at me. Once the passengers are barely in the door the bus goes barreling down the roads at inconceivable speeds as the passengers go jerking from side to side with each turn and flying into the air as the bus sails across speed bumps and giant potholes. Then to top it off there is usually some crazy hyper Mexican banda music to go along with the ride!
So quite an interesting experience to say the least : )***
Sacred Shores of San Pedro
From there I landed in Santiago on the shore of lake Atitlan and thankfully caught the last boat of the evening into the town San Pedro la Laguna. Lake Atitlan is quite the picturesque lake, surrounded by beautiful mountains and small towns. It justifiably has a sacred significance to many Guatemalans and is also a favorite travel place for many foreigners both young and old. I got to go on a horse ride up into the mountain to enjoy some of the gorgeous views that lake Atitlan has to offer and wonder around the friendly town for a couple of days. I stayed in a fun hostel that was full of musicians, so got to be serenaded every night by some seriously talented folks.
Escuela de los Montanas
Next I headed to a Spanish school in the mountains (the closest town about a 15 min bus ride is called Colomba). The communities next to the school are so small they each only have two streets. The students stay and take classes on the school house grounds and then go into the communities to eat meals with a family there. This was an incredible learning experience for me. Yeah sure I learned some Spanish, but I also was able to spend a lot of time reading about the history of Guatemala and talking with the locals there. The peace accords were only signed in 1996, so most of the people have very clear memories of the war and have been personally effected in very intense ways; family members killed, disappeared, tortured or all of the above, fighting in the war, living in constant fear etc. The two neighboring communities that the mountain school interacts with are ex coffee plantations workers. REMEMBER TO DRINK FAIR TRADE COFFEE EVERYONE! For many people it's hard to imagine the conditions that the workers of most coffee plantations are subjected to. It was very interesting to see what life is like in such a rural situation, and hearing peoples personal life stories, I hope I get the chance to share some of them with you in person. Each day I continue to be dumbfounded by the cruelty of some people in this world, then inspired by people's incredible resilience and also overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude for all the wonderful luxuries, opportunities and love I have in my life!
Okay this is getting really long, so I will update again soon with some more of my Guatemalan adventures
Have a good one
Until next time